I ran into my old buddy Mick Kipp yesterday.
Back in the early 1990s, Mick was the bar manager of the Wild Mushroom, a funky restaurant in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore - and that's before Canton was hip. Wild Mushroom had surprisingly good food - not bar fare - much of it fungi-based and very creative.
But it was the beer which brought me there, and often. Mick had made it a Belgian beer lover's heaven, before that was common in our area.
Back then, Mick had a crazy enthusiasm. He retains it today, with several ongoing ventures. He hosts beer tastings; he bartends at a local pub; he owns and operates the The Whiskey Island Pirate Shop. As his card states:
Makers and Purveyors of handmade, smallbatch
Hot sauces, Dry Spice Mixes, Salsa,
Specialty Condiments and Assorted Potables!
"Eat My Stuff"
The last time I was at the Wild Mushroom was in early 1999, shortly after returning to the area from my aborted brewing venture in Cleveland, Ohio. Mick was no longer bar manager and the beer selection was not as top-notch as it had once been. But the occasion that night was a pint night (buy the beer, keep the glass) for Victory's Storm King, a strong stout which has to be one of my favorite US beers.
It was on that evening that I first met Baltimore beer demiurge Jim McGinty.
Jim began his beer career managing a Hard Times Cafe in northern Virginia. Later, when Old Dominion Brewing Company created a distribution arm in Maryland, Jim moved his family to the Baltimore area to operate it. The wholesaler carried several craft beers from the East Coast in addition to Dominion's beers. Jim became known as the go-to guy for good local beer,and always good for a pint and conversation.
Of course, with the sale of Dominion, its distribution company has been shut down.
Word has it that Jim has been shopping around to either open a Baltimore area beer bar with Ken Krucenski (past proprietor of Sean Bolan's in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore, Maryland) or to run the statewide beer operations for a Maryland distributor.
Either way, it's good news for Jim and good news for us in the beer world.
The Wild Mushroom is no more; a different restaurant is now in its old place on S. Montford Avenue.
Jim McGinty has accepted the position of Maryland Beer Manager at the National Distributing Company.